“I’m feeling really good and I’ll shed my shell now,” said a lobster along the Maine coast six weeks earlier than normal. “The water temp is warm, there’s been ample food and ample sunlight to do that.” That’s partly how Lee Kressbach, ten year owner of Maine Lobster Direct, described what has produced a glut of lobster on the Maine coast causing a drastic drop in price that forced many lobstermen along the coast to stop lobstering for a while. That combined with the fact that Canadian processors where Maine lobsters go as well, were busy processing their own lobsters – made a perfect storm sort of situation.
Kressbach went on to explain that soft shell lobsters are very vulnerable to stress and are mushy as well. He sells them locally, but can’t sell them all over North America as he does hard shell lobsters. Soft shells are weak and vulnerable. Recently he bought 28 crates of lobsters from a lobsterman. There were six dead lobsters in each trap. He can’t pay market price with dead lobsters in the crates he buys. Besides, the quality of the soft shells is poorer than normal. “Bring me good lobsters and I’ll pay market price,” he said earlier this week. “I’ve lost a lot of money. No one likes to do that.” But he’s optimistic that the situation will improve when lobsters stop shedding – within several weeks perhaps.
Waterfront businessman, David Violette, owner of Marine Supply, sells gloves, lobster bands and artifical bait primarily to lobstermen. However, during this slow down, he was able to swtich some of that business to ground fishermen to help absorb the loss. What is of concern to him is that toward the end of the year when lobstermen normally buy exensively for next year’s season, they won’t have the cash to do so.
Back at Portland Trap on Union Wharf, a trap maker seemed unconcerned about the work stoppage. Although he does not take in orders for traps made there, he does not think the trap making business has been negatively affected. In assembly line fashion, he and others make custom ordered traps from vinly coated wire in a wide assortment of colors. The vinyl coated wire comes from Massachusetts, China, Italy and Texas. It’s bent into shape on the property and completed on site for customers.
Chase Leavitt, the venerable supplier of safety equipment to boats, moved just two months ago from Maine Wharf to the dead end on Commercial Street on the northeast end. It was evicted from the wharf because the landlord said the wharf was in bad condition and the company needed to move. Because a small percentage of their overall sales are to lobstermen, Chris Harrison, said its sales have been minimally affected. “The lobstering business is very competitive. You have to be a smart businessman to survive. The business fluctuates. They can also make a lot of money,” Harrison said.